Air fryers and convection ovens both cook food faster than traditional ovens by relying on a fan to circulate hot air. Air fryers, however, cook even quicker than convection ovens thanks to the placement and size of their fans in addition to many other factors we address below.
First off, what is an air fryer?
An air fryer is an appliance that cooks food quickly with little to no oil. Its heating elements are typically located on the top of the unit and paired with a large fan. It preheats quickly and starts cooking food right away. Food is placed on a perforated tray, usually inside of an an air fryer basket, which promotes more air circulation.
Okay ... so what is a convection oven?
A convection oven works like an oven with heating elements on the top and bottom. The convection setting works in tandem with a fan that is usually located in the back of the oven. Its fan can be turned off to bake like a traditional oven, which is ideal for more delicate tasks like cookies and cake. Convection ovens do not normally come with any special accessories, although some manufacturer's sell crisper trays to mimic air frying. Decreasing the recipe temperature by 25 degrees is recommended when cooking in a convection oven versus a traditional oven.
Are there differences between air fryers and convection ovens?
Air fryers are countertop appliances while convection settings are built into full-sized ovens and toaster ovens. The countertop size allows air fryers and convection toaster ovens to heat quickly. It also positions the food closer to the heating elements, which encourages food to cook quicker. Some convection ovens and toaster ovens now include an air fry setting, too, as do certain pressure cookers and microwaves.
The heat comes from the top in an air fryer, while it comes from the top and bottom in a convection oven. The top-down method style makes it more concentrated and cooks food faster.
The fan is located on the top of an air fryer, directly below the heating element. In a convection oven, it's located in the back of the oven, either in the center or on the side.
Fan size and speed
Air fryer fans are large and operate faster than convection fans. One manufacturer confirmed that the fan on their air fryer setting is 30% faster than their fan on convection.
Air fryers are paired with many perforated accessories that allow for quick and even cooking with little flipping or tossing. They include air fryer baskets, trays, racks, spits for rotisseries, and skewers for kebabs. Small baking pans or tin cans also be placed on racks, if desired.
So, are air fryers or convection ovens better?
Air fryers cook quicker than convection ovens and don't require heating a large appliance, like your full-sized oven. Their perforated racks also allow fat to drip onto the drip pan so your food doesn't absorb excess oil, which minimizes calories and becomes crispier since it is more dry.
The downside of air fryers is they can't cook as much food at one time as you can in an oven. Food cooks better in an air fryer when it's in a single layer. Some foods, like French fries, can be stacked, but should be tossed at least once. Air fryers can also be loud although many manufacturer's consider this in development.
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